The country has long been severely dogged by chronic electricity cuts. And, alternative energy is often projected as a viable remedy to minimize such power woes. Among other forms of alternative energy, solar power has more potential to help address the ever festering energy deficiency.
Solar energy based technologies such as Solar Photovoltaic (PV) or Solar Thermal systems can act as the best substitutes.
The country receives 3.6 to 6.2 Kilowatt hour of solar radiation per square metre a day with roughly 300 days of sun a year. This means the prospects of harnessing solar energy are simply promising. When the accomplishment of major hydropower projects is still a distant dream, the only most viable alternative to mitigate the energy crisis is solar power.
Despite huge potentials of this mode of electricity generation, effective efforts to harness it are grossly lacking. The failure of the urban solar programme initiated by the government in last fiscal year bodes well this fact.
The programme had set a target of providing subsidies to 25,000 households in 15 municipalities, including those in Kathmandu Valley, to install solar panels.
Unfortunately, this scheme proved ridiculously ineffective as it attracted less than 150 households.
Tedious paper works and meager subsidy amount were the major causes behind this.
The urban solar program was chiefly aimed at encouraging urban households to use solar energy instead of the power supply from the national grid while charging the batteries of inverters.
The shortage of electricity has swelled the trend of using inverters among households as well as commercial consumers.
The inverters engulf a significant amount of energy from the national grid to charge the batteries. And this is only triggering additional load-shedding hours.
According to the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the inverters are consuming 20 percent more power and the load-shedding could be cut by up to two hours a day if the use of inverters was curbed.
So, the government must be serious to launch an effective campaign to minimise the power cuts by encouraging solar technologies in urban areas.
Of course, it is engaged in executing some projects aimed at harnessing alternative energy in the country.
Five-Year National Rural and Renewable Energy Program (NRREP) with the estimated budget of Rs 14 billion is being implemented by the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC).
The program is gravitated towards improving the access of the energy across the country. In the same vein, the Ministry of Finance is undertaking “Grid Solar Energy and Energy Efficiency Project” by mobilizing the financial assistance of $ 130 million (Rs 12.93 billion) from the World Bank.
Out of the total aid package, $50 million will be spent on installing solar stations in Devighat, Pharping, Trishuli and Kulekhani which will generate 25 MW of electricity.
Solar power indeed has potentials to enhance energy security and promote energy mix in the country.